Thursday, 26 November 2009

MMOs: Incentivising raids

I'm planning a series of posts looking at players' motives for wanting to raid.

Clearly the first thing that springs to mind is loot. But loot is a snake eating its own tail, the more you spoil players with Amazing Awesomeblades of Awesomeness the harder they become to impress.

I remember when epic armour was literally a traffic stopper in World Of Warcraft. Players used to stop running wherever they were running to and just stop and admire the armour or weapon. "/t Uberman hi, where did you get that sword pls?"

Moving on from that design let's look around. In Eve the top content includes very hard PVE such as soloing level 5 missions, wormhole exploration and hunting officer plexes in 0,0 space but the pervasive end game is PVP. Even those PVE activities are made daunting by the fact they take place in low sec or null sec so you're at risk of being ganked while PVEing. There are extreme solo challenges (and extremely competent soloers/small gangs) but the closest to raid type content has to be the battle for null sec space.

So how is that incentivised?

Well it is incredibly lucrative to hold good areas of null sec. The system is soon to be revamped but at the moment null sec gives you both passive income from moon mining and excellent PVE spawns for players you allow to operate in your systems.

But a huge part of the motivation is loyalty to your team and disdain for the other team. This is a much bigger factor than loot. It's a PVP game and players want their team to beat the enemy team.

In DDO raiding seems to be much more for a sense of accomplishment than for loot. It has many different dynamics than WoW raiding. Smaller raids mean that there isn't quite such a jump from group content to raid content. Going from 6 to 12 is nothing like going from 5 to 25. Small sizes mean less tolerance for incompetent players (which is both a good thing and a bad thing). DDO's relatively horizontal progression and difficulty settings (solo/normal/hard/elite and a new one just being introduced: epic) mean that a good raid leader can tailor the challenge to suit his group much more than in WoW.

The small community seems to really change the motivations. If there are 50 people at your level of ability on the server screwing up means more than just missing out on a drop.

So here are three elements of raid incentives to think about:
1) Loot
2) Clan building
3) Peer approval

I'm inviting comments on how raids can be designed to keep people interested and having fun in other ways than just the simple loot mudflation system. I'm not saying don't consider loot in your scheme but please do comment if you think you can see how an interesting raid system could be built in a MMO game.


  1. Stabs said:
    "In DDO, raiding seems much more for a sense of accomplishment than for loot."

    That's not correct. If you want to searcg on the topic, try keywords like "Shroud loot overpowered" ort "Green Steel overpowered" to find good evidences of that.

    Actually, in DDO, it's the direct opposite: at end game, EVERYONE raids; whether it's the casual PuGGers or the hardcore raider. Mostly, that is because the loot offered is so powerful that it would just be insane to invalidate it and thus game designers have to build around the assumption that eveyone has that gear.

    What you said about Normal/Hard/Elite is also false: Elite raids are rarely ran. While there is an incentive to run it (ie higher drop rates), the icnentive is so low and the resouece expenditure is so large that no one really bother. Since so many people have alts, they just preffer a good time-effective method to get loot and then switch to another toon once that one is on timer.

  2. You may know DDO but do you know WoW raiding?

    In WoW it is about the items to an overwhelming extent. In other words for many players it's not about how they show to their peers in the slightest. Every DDOer I've met so far wants to be well thought of.

    As for Elite I was simply describing for non DDO players the difficulty system. People run raids on different difficulties depending on the make-up, gear and experience of their raid group and selecting the right difficulty for the group is part of the skill of raid leading.

    In WoW no one builds a group then thinks shall we do Normal or try Hardmode?

  3. I still say that gameplay should rule. If a raid gives me something interesting to *do*, then I'll play it. If it's just a complex loot pinata that I have to suffer playing with 24 other people to get through, it's not worth it to me.

    Peer approval means nothing to me, either, whether it has to do with "he's a raider" or "his gear is so cool". I know, it's important to some, just not to me. It's all about the gameplay in my book.

  4. Unrelated, but I just had to comment and ask permission to quote you on something you left on Tobold's blog: "We want to win all the time while facing the illusion of challenge." I think it's one of the best, most concise descriptions I've seen of how people approach MMO's, particularly WoW. And console games as well, although I have less experience with those.

    (and I saw you're a librarian--I just finished my MLIS this summer, many years post-undergrad. so uh, yay librarians! =P )

  5. IMHO its loot and loot alone. Progress Quest proves all a gamer really needs to see is a number increment to be satisfied.

  6. @ Azzy yes of course go ahead. Best wishes in your first library job!

    @Heartless Read my next blog post please and see if you still agree.